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It was the middle of June 2009 and my mom and I had walked miles and miles around San Francisco looking for an apartment. We didn’t have much time to find one, sign a lease and get a set of keys. We walked everywhere, sometimes in heels, and we just hadn’t found the right apartment for me to start my new journey in San Francisco.

Walking back to our hotel, we were feeling especially defeated. I’m sure I was complaining about my feet hurting and I’m sure she was complaining about her back. The last block before we reached our hotel, we saw a “For Rent” sign, looked at each other, shrugged, and rang the bell.

A gentleman with a slight limp, buzzed gray hair, and a somewhat friendly but also somewhat standoffish demeanor opened the door. He showed us into the apartment that was for rent. It was small, but it was perfect. Hard wood floors, a small but updated kitchen, a huge walk-in closet and just enough space for me and my cat companion. I nearly cried (so did mom).

My mom and I sat down on the floor where I envisioned my bed going (which it did go just there) and took a deep breath. This was it. This was my first apartment in San Francisco.

I stood up and asked the man about the logistics — money, lease, laundry, rules, etc. The apartment was slightly out of my budget, but it was too perfect to pass up. This apartment would be mine. Filled with excitement, I asked the man, “We’ve literally been looking for an apartment for days and days and this place is so perfect and I can’t believe it! Can I hug you?” And I did.

The man, named Tom, took me and my mom downstairs to meet his wife, Connie. She immediately invited us into their apartment on the first floor. She poured us a glass of wine, put out some cheese and crackers, and welcomed me to the building. It was the kindest, most generous offering.

To this day, Tom and Connie are my family away from my family here in San Francisco. For the past five and a half years, they took me in, made sure I had a place to go for every holiday, invited me over for dinners, helped me move to the top floor apartment in the same building, celebrated birthdays. They took care of my packages and even fed my cats when I’d go out of town. I know I got lucky. And I’m the luckiest to still be able to call them friends and family even though I no longer live in their building. We still celebrate holidays, birthdays, and spontaneous free afternoons with glasses of wine and snacks.

A few Sundays ago The Boyfriend and I had them over for a belated birthday/holiday celebration. I wanted to make something special for them since they both are so special to me. I picked a dish out of the new Heritage cookbook The Boyfriend got me for Hanukkah.

Cornmeal Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Smashed Potato and Cucumber and Pickled Green Tomato Relish





Now, I always alter the recipes that I find in cookbooks, but this one I pretty much followed. Here are a few highlights:

  • The key is to marinate the pork shops in buttermilk overnight. Seriously, I’ve never had more tender pork chops. I’m tempted to prepare all my white meat this way. Unreal.
  • I used medium grain cornmeal instead of fine. I liked the extra crunch.
  • I seasoned the cornmeal with a bit of salt, garlic powder and cayenne before dredging the pork chops.
  • I used my cast iron skillet and made sure it was hot hot hot before adding the oil. Then, I made sure the oil was hot hot hot before I added the pork chops.
  • Once adding the pork chops, I didn’t touch them for several minutes so they’d get nice and crispy.
  • For the potatoes, you can’t really go wrong with cream and goat cheese. So, of course I added a little more goat cheese than the recipe called for. No regrets.
  • The relish was supposed to take several days, even a week to prepare. So, I ditched that idea and marinated some red onion, tomato and cucumber in white wine vinegar, water and a little sugar for several hours in the fridge before serving. It added the perfect amount of acidity to the crunch of the pork.
  • For the salad, I used a bit of the leftover goat cheese, candied walnuts and a balsamic salad dressing.

Great food. Even better company.

The full recipe is posted on Austin 360 here

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